Go back to the Europarl portal

Choisissez la langue de votre document :

 Full text 
Verbatim report of proceedings
Thursday, 15 January 1998 - Strasbourg OJ edition

2. Fingerprinting asylum seekers (Eurodac)

  President . – The next item is the report (A4‐0402/97) by Mrs d'Ancona, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs, on the draft Council Act drawing up the Convention concerning the establishment of 'Eurodac' for the comparison of fingerprints of applicants for asylum and the Convention drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, concerning the establishment of 'Eurodac' for the comparison of fingerprints of applicants for asylum (11079/97 – C4‐0506/97‐97/0915(CNS)).

  d"Ancona (PSE), rapporteur. – (NL) Madam President, the topic I intend to speak on is extremely important although it may not provoke the same emotional response as the other topic we have discussed this morning. We can debate this matter in a somewhat more peaceful frame of mind, but I have to tell you honestly that I am discussing it with mixed feelings. I will explain why.

Yesterday evening we had an excellent debate about the refugee policy and about the situation which has arisen out of the fact that 1200 Kurds have asked for political asylum in Italy during the past few weeks. Again, it was a good debate which did not split the left and right as the debate on drugs did. From all contributions to the debate it became clear that what we are missing at the moment is a common asylum and migration policy. All our colleagues here expressed their disappointment with the fact the Treaty of Amsterdam did not provide for such a common asylum and migration policy. Maybe in the long term, but not at the moment. We then see that when an incident, such as this situation with the Kurds, concerns us, we do not really know how to respond to it. Well, I certainly have mixed feelings. I find it extremely difficult to start talking about instruments which have a sound function within the context of a common asylum policy, but in isolation seem to be there to keep asylum seekers out. That is why I thought it was important that we should express an opinion on it.

Firstly, I find it a sign of excellent goodwill by the Council, and I do not mind repeating this here, that it has decided to involve Parliament in the decision‐making process concerning the establishment of this Eurodac instrument. In order to do justice to the idea that it is dangerous to make use of specific instruments outside their context, I have introduced a large number of amendments at the request of the Council, and I obviously hope that my colleagues will support these. They are based on the belief that we must create the greatest possible security for those in distress, those we are discussing here today: people seeking asylum. Specific instruments can be used positively. Taking fingerprints to stop people from being sent from one Member State to the other is a case in point, because there might be uncertainty over which country is responsible for their application for asylum. This procedure is effective in such cases, and ensures that this situation no longer occurs.

Secondly, I think that sending people to a third country outside the EU where there are different standards, possibly to the disadvantage of the asylum seeker, is ruled out. That is also a good thing. In one of the amendments I have also warned that it must be unambiguously clear that the comparison of finger prints should under no circumstance be used for any purpose other than to determine the responsibility of the Member State of origin. So it cannot be used for any other purpose than for the one it serves.

I also think it is important that the register of fingerprints is only kept for a limited amount of time, so that it cannot be misused.

The other thing I find extremely important is that the European Commission, and not one of the Member States takes on the management of Eurodac. I also think there should be a kind of European protector of data, as the number of data bases is increasing, and I think that, in view of people"s privacy, we have to treat these with greatest possible care.

I have suggested that the European Court of Justice should continue to be the appointed institution to turn to as a last resort with complaints in these matters. To conclude, Madam President, I have already told you that I think it is a great pity that this procedure is given priority over the total policy. It is a pity, but I hope that, once the Council has fine‐tuned what is being proposed on a number of points, Eurodac will still be able to fulfil a useful role.

  Zimmerman (PSE).(DE) Madam President, Madam Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, although the report prepared by my colleague Mrs d"Ancona on the drawing up of the Convention concerning the establishment of “Eurodac’ is, in essence, a factual and technical report – as my colleague has already pointed out – the tone is of great significance for those people involved. The individuals to be registered using this system have left their home countries for a number of different reasons and by a number of very different routes. For the most part they have done so because they were fleeing terror, torture and persecution, but also – and we must not underestimate this – because they come from hopeless social and economic backgrounds.

They have all chosen flight in the hope that wherever they may one day find refuge, they really will be able to find better and more secure futures, and above all live safer lives. However, due to the influx of refugees into the European Union, the receptiveness of Member States has declined rapidly in recent years.

On one hand, the many common regulations and conventions existing between the Member States create the impression that fortress Europe is expanding. On the other, Europe is becoming more and more unified, internal borders are becoming increasingly less significant and here too there is a need for a common set of regulations. This is particularly important in the area of the third pillar. However, ‐ and here I must agree with Mrs d"Ancona, and thank her for the excellent work she has done on this report – it is essential that when we talk about an asylum and immigration policy, we talk about a common asylum and immigration policy. There should not, therefore, as is currently the case, be a raft of very different regulations applicable in the various Member States which are then brought together into a minimal piece of legislation by the Council, effectively restricting the level of protection for refugees to a minimum.

I also agree that we should draw up a common framework. But there are a couple of additional comments which I would like to make about the report, which I think are important. The most important is that data protection be guaranteed for the individuals involved. Since it has been laid down that there should be a central organization, but not exactly how this organization should function, it is also important that we agree, as Mrs d"Ancona has stated, that this central unit be based within the European Commission.

I also think it is important that the Member States have only limited access to this central unit, and for a period of only three months, as they are also able to set up their own registers. Therefore, in my view, it is necessary that access by the Member States to this central register be limited.

  Nassauer (PPE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the core of this automatic data processing system relates to the fact that, in principle, future applicants for asylum in the European Union should be fingerprinted as soon as they enter a Member State, as long as they are at least 14 years old. I should like to make it clear from the outset that, for reasons I shall go into later, the PPE Group supports this intention, and that we cannot therefore see the point in linking it to the criticism that, as in other circumstances finger‐printing is used as a method of the criminal justice system, it would effectively criminalize applicants for asylum.

In this regard, there are certain technical requirements which I should like to outline briefly. It is important that asylum proceedings in Europe are decided quickly. This is the right of applicants for asylum, irrespective of whether or not their applications are founded or whether or not they are victims of political persecution. Whatever the case, they need to know as soon as possible whether they can remain in Europe.

Secondly, jurisdictions must be clearly defined. It must be clear which Member State is responsible for dealing with an asylum procedure, i.e. who examines the application. Thirdly, we must avoid a situation in which applicants for asylum are shunted back and forth between EU Member States. These are the prerequisites of proper, constitutional and humane proceedings and in order to achieve them it is necessary to establish the identity of applicants for asylum, and where appropriate their family members, and that is what this system is for. This is, of course, subject to data protection legislation. The relevant agreement states that the Council of Europe Convention on Data Protection of 1981 is applicable in all cases. This convention specifies, inter alia , that such finger prints must be deleted if, for example, the applicant receives citizenship of a Member State or is recognised in a Member State as a refugee.

However, not all those seeking asylum are the victims of political persecution. Yesterday the figures relating to applicants for asylum in Germany last year were published. They numbered more than 104 000, and of these, just over 5 % received recognition as political refugees. Of course, there are a considerable number of asylum seekers who make not one, but two or more applications in order to receive several lots of social security benefit. This is a regrettable fact which should not be overlooked. In Germany, for example, investigations were carried out covering the period from January 1993 to September 1996 and no less than 46 000 cases of fraud were detected – a rate of approximately 1 in 10. Since the introduction of an automated finger‐printing system in Germany this figure has dropped considerably.

A comparative study has also been carried out examining asylum application procedures in Switzerland and Germany. It revealed that double applications giving rise to payment of double social security benefits were received from the main applicant countries – Turkey 12 %, Pakistan 19 %, Zaire 12 %, Lebanon 12 % – and this fact cannot simply be ignored. Similar figures also came out of a study comparing Switzerland and Austria. Therefore, it makes sense to have such a procedure. It benefits those who are genuinely the victims of political persecution and for this reason the PPE Group supports this Council Convention and has some reservations about the restrictions contained in Mrs d"Ancona"s report.

  Mohamed Alí (GUE/NGL).(ES) Madam President, today we are considering the report from Mrs d"Ancona on the proposal from the Council for an automated system for recognizing the fingerprints of asylum seekers.

We agree with the rapporteur that we need to improve citizens" legal position, through clear measures and quick procedures, in recognizing the right to asylum. Moreover, we support the desire to establish a European data protection system, particularly given the growing number of systems which facilitate the exchange of personal data and the difficulty in defending these systems against possible abuse of the individuals they include.

Asylum is a basic human right. To grant or deny access to the asylum process may mean the difference between a person"s life and death, as is pointed out in the report. This feature must be there in every instance, and the necessary precautions have to be taken so that the people affected can benefit from the most favourable legal conditions.

In this context I would like to recall the passivity demonstrated by the Spanish Government in the face of asylum and refugee applications from more than 270 Algerian immigrants who are still waiting in Melilla – and have been in some cases for more than two years – for their applications for legal protection to be dealt with in the face of the terrorist threat to which they are subject in their country of origin. Meanwhile, the Spanish authorities maintain – incomprehensibly – that Algeria is not an area of conflict.

The coordination of asylum policies needed in the European Union must not be allowed to erode the system of international protection. In this sense, the future political union will have to maintain and develop the traditional European policy of the right to asylum.

We advocate a progressive attitude with respect to the right to asylum, subject to all the international conventions, and through a progressive application of that right to nationals from countries within the Union. However, when political union is fully achieved this right will only be necessary in terms of nationals from third countries.

  Voggenhuber (V).(DE) Madam President, all over Europe at the moment people are thinking back to the words Emile Zola threw at his government exactly 100 years ago: J"accuse – I accuse. It was the expression of his despairing resistance against a despotic power which had branded an innocent man guilty in a calculated political manoeuvre, flouted the dictates of justice, ignored the dignity of man and sacrificed him to the opinion of an enraged public.

One hundred years later we are safe in the knowledge that we have finally tamed this kind of power, finally subjected it to justice. Yet still we are forced to watch just such an accusation levelled against just such despotism reforming in the hearts and minds of thousands of men and women at the borders of Europe who are being prevented from enjoying their human right to asylum with ever new forms of harassment, with denial and perversion of the course of justice. We are forced to watch how justice and politics retreat in the face of a hysterical public and the mass phenomenon of xenophobia.

No other region in the world has triggered more or larger streams of refugees than did this continent in the 20th century. Millions of men and women from Europe have been received into countless countries all over the world, very often countries themselves suffering ruin and poverty. Today, at the time of our greatest historical prosperity, an incomparably smaller number of oppressed and persecuted individuals is taking flight in our direction. And what are we doing? We are refusing an ever growing number of them the right to shelter. Instead, we are using police methods to monitor them. European co‐operation sees its only duty as being their rejection and, if necessary, their deportation. In the face of a mere 2000 fleeing Kurds politicians conjure horrific images of an uncontrolled flood of refugees. Phrases such as “illegal immigrants’ are used. Europe, which owes its cultural wealth to its openness to the world, is becoming a fortress. If that “j"accuse’ forms in the minds and hearts of the men and women waiting at the walls of this fortress, then it is we who are accused.

  Buffetaut (I‐EDN). (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, recent events have forcibly and tragically reminded us of the importance of the asylum policy to every Member State of the European Union and to the European Union as a whole. Although it is obvious that inter‐state cooperation is not only useful but also necessary in this area, it is nevertheless true that the problem of accepting refugees, and the right of asylum, are essentially, a question of national sovereignty, as moreover, the French Constitutional Council recently ruled. These principles are reflected in the 'Eurodac' report, which is above all a technical report, but also a political report.

The rapporteur suggests that responsibility for the management of the Eurodac system should be entrusted, not to a Member State, under the responsibility of the Council, but to the Commission. It seems to us that it would be preferable for the management of such a system to remain under the responsibility of the Council instead of being entrusted to the Commission. Indeed, the Council, emanating from the Member States, has a more accurate perception of the real, practical issues associated with the problems of accepting refugees, whereas the Commission is likely to have a more ‚disembodied’ view, more remote from practical problems and real life in each of the Member States faced with an influx of refugees.

That is why we will vote against the Committee on Civil Liberties' amendments. The refugee problem is an extremely serious human problem, but politics is the art of reality. A few years ago, our colleague, Michel Rocard said that France could not accommodate all the poverty of the world. I do not think that Europe can accommodate all the poverty of the world either, and it is a question, as far as we are concerned, of being able to organize cooperation and development policies for poor countries, to enable their inhabitants to prosper at home.

  Vanhecke (NI).(NL) Madam President, the Kurdish refugee case is a current reminder that the problem of the asylum seeker is perhaps one of if not the greatest challenges for Europe in the coming years. I should add, however, that the Kurdish problem is still very small in comparison to the tidal wave of millions which threatens to come our way if the situation in Algeria escalates any further. But I am already wondering which European government will have the courage to call a halt to this tidal wave of millions, which, with all respect, would render today"s debate on the registration of fingerprints totally obsolete. We obviously support the Council"s Eurodac proposal for a central fingerprints register for asylum seekers. In my opinion it is one of very few interventions which might alleviate to a small extent, not enough, but to a small event the negative effects of the loss of border controls in the Schengen countries, which, for that matter, we continue to challenge.

We reject the amendments of the d"Ancona report equally obviously, amendments which on the one hand serve to hamper the much‐needed fingerprints register, and on the other hand give the European Commission a decision‐making position in asylum policy which the Commission is absolutely not entitled to.

Lastly, it is also my duty to broaden the debate a little, and to remind you that experience teaches us that, after investigation, more than 90 % of applications for asylum turn out to be completely unfounded. This should be said now that so many politicians in my country and outside continue to argue for a kind of Santa Claus politics which is ultimately pursued on the back and at the expense of the less well‐off and the poorest amongst our own people.

So to conclude, I repeat that in my view genuine political refugees should be received in countries neighbouring their countries of origin which have on the whole a similar way of life and culture, and therefore not in Europe, and that we are prepared to support this policy materially.

Secondly, we believe that illegal asylum seekers, in other words 90 % of applicants, should be categorically deported, yet in a humane manner. Only then will renewed support be found in Europe to help all genuine refugees. Today, sadly enough, yet for understandable reasons, this is certainly not the case.

  Blak (PSE).(DA) Madam President, this Eurodac Convention is essential in order to get the Dublin Convention to work. It is necessary for us in Europe to cooperate on questions of asylum seekers. The current, tragic situation of the Kurdish refugees is an example. It is necessary to have an effective and responsible asylum policy in the EU. The issue is not who should have a right to asylum in the EU. Rather the issue concerns a better sharing of the responsibility for refugees in Europe. It is simply a matter of getting better tools to decide which Member State is responsible for dealing with an application for asylum which is submitted within the EU.

On the one hand we should avoid turning asylum seekers into political footballs between different countries because no‐one wants to take responsibility for dealing with their case. There are many tragic examples of cases where asylum seekers wait for years to get their applications processed, or are sent back and forth between different European countries because no‐one wants to accept responsibility. That is not the way for us to treat people who in many cases have escaped from oppression and torture. On the other hand, we should prevent too much cheating. It is important that every country is obliged to take fingerprints. That is the only way that we can prevent asylum seekers changing identity after being turned down by one Member State. If we have a database of fingerprints, we can uncover cheating and abuse immediately. This would also be beneficial for genuine asylum seekers.

I am very pleased that the rapporteur emphasizes the fact that the setting up of this database must not mean that the asylum seekers' legal protection is compromised. Asylum seekers have a right to data protection. There should be security and control of the data, both in terms of who has access to it and who is able to use it.


  Reding (PPE). (FR) Mr President, the recent upsurge of refugees arriving in Europe has had the merit of drawing attention to the problems of asylum seekers in the European Union.

The Eurodac system presented by the Commission is a response to one aspect of the problem. The Dublin Convention did say that a refugee must apply for asylum in the first host country and comply with that country's decision, which would apply to the whole EU.

The Eurodac system is now trying to transpose that principle into reality, in order to ensure that certain people, without identification, do not travel from country to country, according to the welfare benefits they can obtain, whilst awaiting a decision. Fingerprinting would make it possible for find out quickly, without having to wait a long time, whether the person in question applied for asylum in the first host country. The main advantage of this system is its rapidity, which will therefore be of benefit to real refugees, who apply for asylum within the law, and will prevent others from taking unfair advantage of the hospitality of the Member States.

Eurodac is not a tool to be used for repression, to drive out refugees. As was said yesterday evening, Europe must not be closed to refugees; it must remain open to people in distress. Eurodac should, on the contrary, help contribute towards our ability to provide hospitality, whilst preventing abuse of the system. The system is very often abused – as recent events have shown – by extremely well organised and well‐informed criminals, who, for enormous sums of money, transport people in distress, and provide them with information about the loop‐holes and weaknesses in the laws of EU countries.

Those who cry shame as soon as the word ‚repression’ is mentioned, disregard the fact that, to Mafias of all types, illegal border crossings are the most lucrative form of criminal activity after drug dealing.

During the debates on the Kurdish refugees, the need for European harmonization, with regard to asylum policy, suddenly became apparent. Eurodac is one element of European cooperation, a tool to help us handle the arrival of refugees.

Although the Eurodac system must be welcomed as a technical instrument to prevent abuse, we should not lose sight of the root of the problem, that is, the situation in refugees' home countries. It is here that European internal and foreign affairs policies should meet in order to form an overall, and therefore more effective approach.

The European Union must incorporate human rights considerations more fully into its relationship with such countries, support the reconciliation of people within the framework of the rule of law, and denounce the political, economic and cultural oppression of minorities. The European Union is one of the largest distributors of economic aid throughout the world. May we at the same time gain a reputation for our protection of democratic values!

  Sjöstedt (GUE/NGL). (SV) Mr President, Eurodac is part of a restrictive and to some extent brutalizing refugee policy which we can see developing in Western Europe today. The countries of the EU are closing themselves more and more to large parts of the surrounding world. Far too often refugees are treated in a shameful manner, as if they were criminals rather than people seeking protection.

The basis of Eurodac is that an application for asylum should only be dealt with in one Member State. I do not share this basic view and therefore support paragraph 8 of the report, which I believe is absolutely crucial. Every asylum seeker should be dealt with separately, regardless of whether they are included on such a database or not. That is a fundamental point.

There are innumerable examples of asylum seekers who have been rejected by one EU country, but have later been able to seek asylum in another country and have had their applications accepted. I myself have several personal friends who have managed to do that. One wonders what is going to happen to them when this system begins to work in practice.

Taking fingerprints is an infringement of personal integrity. An obligatory system of fingerprinting is ultimately based on the idea that people who do not want to give their fingerprints should be forced to do so, by violence in extreme cases. This applies to children from the age of 14 upwards. That is a serious infringement of personal integrity.

I believe this is not really necessary. In Sweden we used to have a system which meant that only those who could not prove their identity in a reliable way were required to provide fingerprints. That is a method which is entirely sufficient to clarify who the asylum seeker is.

In practice the asylum seekers cannot say no, because it would damage their case if they refused to provide fingerprints.

The draft convention also contains several other weaknesses. I think the age limit of 14 has been set too low. It should be at least 18 or 21 years, or another age when a person may be regarded as an adult.

The requirement that data should be erased from the system is incomplete. There are clear risks that people are going to be registered who are resident quite legally in various Member States. We know that there are British and German reservations about the proposal which was discussed at the Ministers' meeting in December. In that it is made clear that people who have a residence permit in a Member State should not be included on the database. I believe it is a quite natural demand that has been made in connection with these negotiations, it is a demand for legal certainty.

It is also unclear, in spite of what is in the draft convention, what opportunities the asylum seekers actually have to get information, to be able to appeal and to assert their rights. There is a similar system of control for the database in the Schengen Information System called JSA, Joint Supervisory Authority . At the moment that operates alarmingly badly. We know that the supervision is poor, the legal certainty is weak and the opportunities to appeal are small. I believe there is an obvious risk that there will be the same weaknesses in the Eurodac system which exist in the Schengen system today. It is a system which means that in practice the refugee is always at a disadvantage.

With these words I want to show that I share much of the rapporteur's criticism. She points out serious defects in the existing system. I do not share her view that the Commission should have influence over this. It is an intergovernmental issue and an issue for the Member States. In spite of this criticism, I am going to vote for Mrs d'Ancona's report because it raises important issues about the Eurodac system.

  Lindeperg (PSE). (FR) Mr President, I would first of all like to say to Mr Buffetaut who spoke earlier, that he did not quote Michel Rocard in full. I would like to finish the quotation. Michel Rocard did indeed say that France could not welcome all the poverty in the world, but he added that France should accept its full share. I think that is important.

When we discuss the Eurodac report, we are right in the middle of the problems caused by non‐harmonization of our immigration and asylum policies. Yesterday, we had a debate on the arrival of Kurdish refugees in Italy, and we saw how difficult it is to discuss problems in the heat of the moment. Although it was rightly emphasized that the Italian government's attitude is perfectly respectable, we also had to recognise that on the whole, the behaviour of EU countries is undecided and questionable, as we have failed to establish any prior agreement, upstream, on measures to be adopted in this type of situation.

The Eurodac project is part of the pursuit of harmonization of asylum practices. I therefore agree with it in principle, provided of course that we are very watchful with regard to human rights, as Mrs d'Ancona said. Her report makes provision for this and I support it. But I should like above all to emphasize the need to progress rapidly towards the harmonization of asylum practices.

Madam Commissioner, you have made a proposal with regard to the temporary protection of displaced persons, which I have already had occasion to applaud. But as you know, when the Council finally adopts that initiative, it will solve only part of the problem. Because what have we seen with regard to applications for asylum in the EU for several years? The number of requests for asylum peaked in 1992, and has since decreased every year. National provisions have been adopted by many Member States to discourage people wanting to seek a better future in Europe, who are unable to enter Europe because of stricter immigration controls, from trying to obtain the status of refugee.

Such new provisions largely explain the decrease in asylum seekers. But it therefore seems obvious that there should now be a higher rate of acceptance of applications. But Mr President, Madam Commissioner, what we see taking place is exactly the opposite, the rate of acceptance is also decreasing.

Has the world suddenly become a haven of peace and prosperity? Every day brings us new proof that it has not. There is a simpler reason, that can be seen, the increasing timidity of Member States and the more and more repressive policies being set up. The laws of some Member States interpret the Geneva Convention in a spirit contrary to its promoters. People who are really persecuted are refused the status of refugee, on the grounds that their persecutors are not Government agents, and the Council ratified this restrictive interpretation in a resolution of March 1996. As of course the risks such people run if they return are well known, they are tolerated within the EU, but without status or rights, in several of our Member States. Some have already created a complementary protection status, others like my own, are working on it. Madam Commissioner, would it not be preferable to have a common policy on this point, and to work towards the definition of a status of subsidiary protection at the European Union level?

  Pirker (PPE).(DE) Mr President, it is the goal of the European Union to devise an asylum policy which helps the real refugees, that is those who are entitled to refugee status under the Geneva Convention, and, secondly, to prevent abuse of the right of asylum. Amsterdam set the course for a route to a common asylum policy. The Dublin Convention which is currently in force is a first, quite crucial step towards the development of a common asylum policy. The tool we are now discussing, the Eurodac system, is a tool which ensures that those who need help actually get it and prevents those who are abusing the right of asylum from doing so. So it is a good tool. The proposal put to us by the Council is a tool which is acceptable and which helps to achieve the European Union"s goals in terms of asylum policy.

What the committee with its restrictions and tendentious conclusions has made of it, on the other hand, does not help us achieve the goals we have set ourselves. When you consider that if an application is re‐presented, although it has been rejected by only one State, the same applicant and all his or her arguments have to be heard again in all the other Member States, this represents a huge amount of time and money. Our systems are overloaded and at the end of the day we are unable to offer help or guarantee asylum.

As my second point, I should like to note here that, due to a proposal from the committee, it is not possible to compare fingerprints with those of applicants who have made applications in their own countries, even though this would show us that only a small proportion of the applicants are actually suitable candidates for asylum. These are single figure percentages in each of the countries, which, in fact, means that very many applications are made without grounds. I know of cases in which up to ten applications for asylum have been made in different states and yet people still say that the right of asylum in Europe is not abused. We have to do something about it. We need to ensure that, in general, those who support the fingerprinting of applicants for asylum are not looked at disapprovingly; otherwise, we would be giving the wrong signals and going down the wrong path.

We need the Eurodac System because it supports a good and proper asylum policy and is designed to stop abuse. So we will support Eurodac in the form that has been proposed by the Council. However, I – and this also applies to the European People"s Party Group – cannot endorse the proposals coming from the committee.

  Schulz (PSE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the opportunity which the Eurodac System will afford us in terms of fighting the current abuse of the asylum application system, for a great number of reasons, must be welcomed. If it should be possible, through the use of fingerprinting systems and the storage of fingerprints to prevent multiple applications, irrespective of the reasons for which they are: on social, economic or family grounds, because people do not want to stay in one place and decide to make an application somewhere else, that is OK.

But time and time again we restrict these debates which we are having on the right of asylum here today to technical debates. We did it yesterday, and we are doing it again this morning. Let us ask ourselves the question once and for all: Why is it that we are obliged to talk about a Eurodac system at all? Why, as soon as the discussion turns to asylum, do we always concentrate on abuses of the right of asylum in a criminal context?

Mr Pirker, for eleven years I have been the Mayor of a German town which lies on the Dutch and Belgian borders. The town of which I am Mayor has the highest percentage of refugees from the Bosnian civil war. Most of them came to my town from Srebrenica und Gorazde. We took them in and then we had to beg them to declare themselves asylum seekers because Germany does not recognise a right of asylum for refugees from civil wars. In Germany there is no legal basis for refugees from civil war.

I have begged these people to claim asylum, though they say they are not victims of political persecution, but are fleeing from a civil war and want to return to their country when the civil war is over. Which is just what they have been doing since the Dayton Agreement! I was forced to ask them to consider themselves as asylum seekers, which meant that they were forced to stay in my town. If they had gone anywhere else, which would have made me for one very happy since it would have meant a little respite for my finances, someone like Mr Pirker would have come along and said: Just a minute, Eurodac, fingerprinting system for asylum seekers, you can"t go there!

With this small example, I am trying to illustrate the fact that the European Union"s refugee policy needs to be a combination of various different areas of policy. For time and time again we face a situation in which people say: I want to emigrate to the European Union. It is possible, in theory. It might not be advisable because of the great defensive front, but if someone wants to emigrate he is allowed to in principle and so we need to create an appropriate new legal base. We do not have one. There is no European immigration law, there are no national immigration laws. We force people who want to migrate here to assume the status of an asylum seeker. That is the danger we ourselves are creating for the right of asylum!

In the European Union we always adopt the same approach: we deny the fact that Europe is a continent which attracts immigrants, even though it is due to the poverty gap for which we are in part responsible, in particular the difference in poverty levels between the north and the south as well as between the west and the east, along with the lack of willingness on the part of some EU Member States to share their wealth. This will be shown very clearly in the remainder of the debate. Naturally, our wealth has a magnetic effect on the poorer regions which surround us. The answer to the problem cannot be defence, it must lie in control, and particularly in three interlinking areas of the law: immigration quotas, clear rules for the acceptance of refugees from civil wars needing temporary protection and, finally, the core of political persecution which is then no longer a problem. And even then you don"t need Eurodac!

If you think that you can solve the problem at the inter‐state level, colleagues in the PPE, let me tell you today: Forget it! You have created the European Economic Area, you have created a de facto EU state, but now you want to continue the process, focusing on specifics, dissected for want of long‐needed progress in terms of harmonization. If we do not remove this disfunctionality, Europe will fail its own citizens as a result of this imbalance. You should be a little more harmonization‐friendly in matters of integration, not just in matters of defence.

  Gradin , Member of the Commission. – (SV) Mr President, let me begin by congratulating the rapporteur, Mrs d'Ancona, on a good and thorough report on the Eurodac Convention. I also welcome the quick reading which the matter has received here in Parliament.

When we discuss the Eurodac Convention, we must do so in the light of the Dublin Convention, because that is where we find the criteria for which Member State is responsible for the examination of an application for asylum. That is also where to find the rules on how an asylum seeker may be returned to the country which is to decide the application for asylum.

The Dublin Convention was signed in June 1990. Seven years later, in September last year, it entered into force. However, it is not enough to have a legal system for the first asylum principle and for it to be able to work. That is why the Dublin Convention refers to Article 15, paragraph 12, and the fact that we need computerization of information about the identity of asylum seekers. It is in that context that Eurodac comes in as a complement. It is, after all, as a complement to the Dublin Convention that Eurodac should be seen.

Through Eurodac it will be possible to find out whether asylum applications are being made in several places by one and the same person. It is important for us to know that if the Dublin Convention is to function effectively at all. That is in turn only possible through a computerized system for fingerprints, which is found in the Eurodac Convention.

We are working within an institutional framework which is in a state of change. The draft Eurodac Convention we are debating here today has been drawn up under the rules of the Maastricht Treaty. The Commission is aware that the Amsterdam Treaty means another institutional framework, but we do not think that we can wait until this new Treaty enters into force. We need the Eurodac system now if the Dublin Convention is to be able to be credible and effective. Like Mr Nassauer, I think it is important that we have a quick procedure and that people are informed very quickly about the situation they are in. I also think this is demonstrated by recent events in Italy, i.e. that we need a different system to the one we have today. At the same time I would like to emphasize that if the Eurodac Convention is not in force when the Amsterdam Treaty is ratified, the Commission will of course come back and propose a Community instrument.

The Commission shares Parliament's view that the Convention should be entirely in agreement with the rules on data protection, which I think it is in its current form. During the discussion on the proposal the Commission urged that the principles of data protection should be in agreement with the Community's rules in this area, even though the Regulation on Data Protection is not applicable in the third pillar area. I think that we have now reached an acceptable level of data protection. We should therefore support the compromise on Article 6 which requires that after a five year period the Council of Ministers should consider whether it is still necessary to keep data on people who are granted refugee status.

The Commission also welcomes a number of the amendments which have been proposed. That includes in particular Amendments Nos 1, 11, 16, 19, 20, 27, 29, 30 and 34 which we are now considering. Amendment No 20 includes parts which we can accept, particularly the principle on decisions with regard to implementation measures and that they should be carried by majority decision.

Finally, I would like to underline the fact that Eurodac's operation is going to be entirely dependent on how we manage the financing, both with regard to setting up the system and the operation itself. It is my hope that the principle of Community financing will be adopted and that is also what the Commission supports. If that is the case, the European Parliament will have a decisive role to play in how the future Eurodac shall operate. The Commission looks forward to being able to deal with the question of Eurodac's financing together with the European Parliament.

  President . – Thank you, Commissioner Gradin.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 12.00 noon.

Legal notice - Privacy policy